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Fatigue Risk Essay

5711 words - 23 pages

Fatigue risk: The roles of
napping, depression and alcohol

Brad Strahan
Brad Strahan & Associates Pty Ltd


The present paper continues an exploration of the role of the individual in adding to or reducing fatigue risk within mining operations (see Strahan, 2002, 2003). Results are reported from three survey based investigations conducted during 2008 and early 2009 in two open-cut and one underground operation. The results indicate that (a) depression is a significant issue and linked to fatigue risk; (b) excessive alcohol consumption is linked to increased fatigue risk; and (c), napping is symptomatic of poor and inadequate sleep and poor coping rather ...view middle of the document...

For example, in 2005 average hours per week for full time Australian workers was calculated at 34.7, whereas the mining industry recorded an average of 45.5 hours/week, up from 43.2 hours/week in 1995 (ABS, 2006). These arrangements bring an inevitable additional demand to all employees in the industry. Add remote locations and relatively tough conditions to the roster and hours of work arrangements, and few people would disagree that the mining industry brings an additional level of demand to employees. It would seem inevitable that how people go about coping in these high demand conditions might have a direct bearing on their well being and the degree of risk they experience as a result of functioning within a high demand environment.

Coping strategies

In 2002 we demonstrated that an individual’s strategy for coping with fatigue had a direct link to the outcomes they experienced in terms of fatigue risk and hours and quality of sleep (see Strahan, 2002, 2003). In fact, data collected in 2003 demonstrated commonalities between the way an individual coped at work and the strategies adopted for coping with the tension shift work brought to family life. A second study in 2003 revealed that the extent to which individuals assumed a sense of personal ownership and agency within the workplace was linked to their reported level of fatigue risk and injury history (see Strahan, 2003, 2003b).

The 2002 study identified three quite different styles of coping with the demand of fatigue among mining employees. These styles were labelled as the Preventive approach, the Reactive approach and the Do Nothing approach. The Preventive approach was defined by an active and planned approach aimed at preventing fatigue risk. People who adopted a preventive approach agreed that they planned their sleep, exercise and diet, they reported more hours of sleep and scored lower on two measures of sleep quality and reported fewer near misses that they believe were caused by personal fatigue. In contrast, the Reactive approach was defined by an absence of planning and thinking ahead and a reliance on stimulation seeking strategies when an individual felt fatigued, eg. caffeinated drinks, winding down windows, turning up radios, splashing water on face, etc. The relatively small group adopting the Do Nothing approach indicated that they did nothing to manage fatigue, but were most likely to report one or more near misses as a result of personal fatigue, were more likely to see their personal fatigue as caused by a range of external conditions, reported poorer sleep quality, fewer hours of sleep, consumed more alcohol on days off and were more likely to report distancing strategies at home as a way of managing the family tensions they believed were created by shiftwork (see Strahan, 2002, 2003a). These findings are consistent with Smith et al (2007) who found health service workers whose approach to managing fatigue reflected an internal locus of control faired...

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